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Mindy Segal talks about Cookie Love, her new cookbook

Written by
Erica Garber
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Mindy Segal, owner of Mindy's Hot Chocolate, a James Beard Award–winning pastry chef and two-time consecutive Best Pastry Chef at Time Out Chicago’s Food & Drink Awards, released Cookie Love, the first book in her new cookbook series, earlier this month. The book features 60 recipes, including Segal’s take on Milanos. She’ll be talking about her book as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival at Bottom Lounge on April 22 at 7pm as well as signing at area bookstores over the next couple months. We caught up with Segal to talk about her favorite recipes, how to create the perfect cookie and what’s coming up next for her. 

Why did you decide a cookbook, specifically about cookies?
I have an enormous love for all the different types of cookies in the world and I have been making cookies my entire career. I'm hoping that I write a series of single-subject books and not just one, but I wanted it to be very focused. 

What are a few of your favorite memories associated with creating these recipes?
I remember creating the sandwich cookies. They're very particular to my style and I bought these really cool vintage rectangular cookie cutters… I started dipping them and putting garnishes on them and putting them in my dessert case. I remember coming up with them and being really proud of those. I loved the reaction that I got from people when they ate them. 

What was your approach to creating the recipes and testing them?
Most of the time I had made these cookies before because I've always had a cookie plate on my menu, but I wanted to create different flavors… [Co-author] Kate [Leahy] and I collaborated on it and as you write a book the table of contents changes over and over again… I basically wrote the book on a legal pad and every morning I would call Kate and I would dictate the recipes to her of what I had worked on the day before. Then I would talk the process through with her.

She would make the recipes at home and she would call me if she had any questions and she would test them and take them places… People would eat the cookies and they would give their opinion on them, then she would report back to me. And that's really how we worked on the recipes… I had the girl who managed the office make the recipes in the book to see if they would work and those were the cookies that we used for the photo shoot.

What was your favorite recipe to create?
I didn't necessarily create these recipes for the book, but one of my favorite recipes in the book is the Fleur De Sel Shortbread with Vanilla Halvah frosting. I love the technique and I love the flavors and the combination. I also love the Best Friend cookie; I love the Lemon Tea Cakes with Goat Butter. I think that they're really creative ideas and I think that people like them a lot.

What are your tips to creating new recipes from classics?
First of all, you'd want to decide what your final outcome to be. Then work backwards. For someone who's not a professional chef, the best way to do it is to take a recipe, make it, and see what you like, see what you don't like, write down the changes you made. If you make a tweak, write it down, test it and then teach yourself from there. 

Do you see cookies as a snack, dessert or both?
Oh, I think they're both. For sure…They're both and then some.

What else do you have in store for the next year?
Well, I'm working on a new book, which will probably be pies.

Other times and places to see Segal:

Saturday, April 25
11am–1:30pm
Class and book signing at The Chopping Block in the Merchandise Mart

Thursday, May 7
6pm
Signing at Le Creuset boutique store, 47 E Ohio St

Thursday, May 14
6pm
Read It And Eat bookstore signing
2142 N Halsted St

Thursday, June 18
7:30pm
Women & Children First signing
5233 N Clark St

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